Some of Australia’s brightest minds are collaborating to develop a portable device that uses artificial intelligence to help biosecurity officers more quickly identify high-risk brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) on the frontline.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has partnered with CSIRO and Microsoft to develop the app which will help operational staff identify the BMSB (Halyomorpha halys) and other invasive and endemic stink bug species in the field and in real-time.

As part of its role in the project, CSIRO identified each stink bug (Pentatomids) specimen, exotic and native, and produced a digital library of high-resolution images with pictures of the bugs taken from multiple angles.

They then used a Microsoft AI image recognition model and, using machine learning, trained it to identify the unique top, underside and side views of each distinct bug.

This information was developed into an app for mobile phones, to be trialled by DAFF biosecurity and surveillance officers in the field. The technology provides a confidence rating on the species’ identification, which helps officers more quickly determine their course of action.

Deputy Secretary of Biosecurity and Compliance Dr Chris Locke said the project was extremely timely as annual measures to stop BMSB entering Australia started on 1 September.

“In the last 25 years, the sap-sucking BMSB has become established in several countries in Europe and North America. They can cause considerable damage to crops like apples, pears, grapes, cotton, maize, tomatoes, soybeans, citrus and stone fruits,” Dr Locke said.

“Operational staff can find high-priority pests challenging to identify in the field as many exotic species look similar to endemic species. Any technology that can assist them to make identifications more confidently and faster is welcome.”

DAFF said the AI recognition technology could also be used to identify destructive exotic bee species and other plant pests.

For further information about the Biosecurity Innovation Program click here.

The bug app in use. Image courtesy Museums Victoria.